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Summer Mvt. 1 Critique & Feedback Appreciated

Discussion in 'Critique & Feedback' started by Paul T McGraw, Oct 7, 2018.

  1. #1 Paul T McGraw, Oct 7, 2018
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2018
    "Summer" will be a multi-movement piece. This movement is in sonata form, and orchestrated for a standardly sized orchestra. I wanted the piece to be at least partly pastoral. As a result, I was trying to keep harmonies a bit simpler than usual for me, with less emphasis on mediant progressions.

    The score is NOT transposed. So the Bb clarinets, F Horns, and Bb trumpets show their sounding pitch, not the written transposed notes that would be shown in the parts. For the horns, I use alto clef for the score only, which is not standard.

    I am a notation oriented composer. So my last step is to do a mid-performance. This is just NotePerformer sound, and I will remove this video after a few months . I would love to get critique and feedback before I take that last step as at this point changes can still be made easily if warranted.

    I have also attached the score as a PDF file.

    Attached Files:

  2. I can't see the score in enough detail to comment on what you've written. That said, just listening to it I have no suggestions. Great work Paul.
  3. Thanks Sam. I should have included a PDF score, so I have now done so above. Thanks.
    Doug Gibson and Sam Miller like this.
  4. Hey Paul, thanks for including a draft of the score. I love your rhythmic variety in the thematic figures (R. Strauss had a similar rhythmic vibe). There are a couple of passages in the flutes that are high for unisons (m.227-230). Some parts where the string section carries the thematic material that I wish were harmonized (m.64-80 is a section). The "summer storm" sections are a welcome contrast. You may want to double check the playability of the tremolos throughout (both winds and strings), but they look possible. I like that you save the subdominant (F) for the big finale - Finlandia style. When the tonality disintegrates at m.288, I have no idea what you're aiming for there.

    I enjoyed the piece (vibrant tempo and festive) and will give it another listen soon.
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  5. #5 Paul T McGraw, Oct 9, 2018 at 3:02 PM
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2018 at 3:20 PM
    Thanks, @Bradley Boone you always impress me. You read my mind! And you always have great suggestions.

    Flutes changed to solo in the referenced section. Although I bow to your experience with flutes, I do not understand why. But I take your word for it and changed to a solo flute there.

    I will double check the tremolos, and examine the orchestration of the sections mentioned.

    At measure 288 I was thinking of the musical equivalent of a kaleidoscope. The harmony has been very staid, clear, and very predictable to this point. Suddenly the tonality goes out of focus, giving the listener a sort of harmonic wake up call (like waking from a dream of a summer day when we were kids) then the harmony gradually comes back into focus for the big plagal cadence.

    That final plagal cadence was thanks to an email exchange with @Doug Gibson who commented on my avoidance of subdominant harmonies. He is right of course, so I decided to try to make a flaw into a feature by studiously avoiding IV to I (plagal cadence) motion until the very end, then making that my final cadence. I hope the ending is memorable.
    Doug Gibson likes this.
  6. Wonderful work Paul! I'm not an expert of the genre but I enjoyed your piece very much!
    Paul T McGraw and Doug Gibson like this.
  7. I'm late to the party here as I've been extremely busy and haven't had a chance to re-visit this until today. I really like what you did in the section from ms.49 - 85. This is very nice development. I also like how you play the theme in half-time at ms.272. In some of the softer sections, I still wish to hear more question/answer between strings and woodwinds although you do this a bit between strings and brass which is quite effective. Overall, your orchestration sounds/seems quite balanced as far as I can tell. Nice work! I hope you have the opportunity to arrange a live performance.
    Paul T McGraw likes this.
  8. Hey Paul, much great stuff in there! I would love to give critique but first need to know what you are aiming towards. I feel a strong Beethoven influence, and you use "the sonata form", but there is so much influence that does not fit the old classical way, even considering the liberties of Beethoven. For that reason my mind gets a bit confused. The classical form(s) and structures are very tight and conservative. If there is one clear thing that holds it all together it is "the thread" (il filo in Italian) and a deep understanding and respect of tradition. I really recommend Robert Gjerdingen's The Galant Style since it really makes it possible to understand complex composers such as Mozart and Beethoven. In any case I feel a longing towards Beethoven but a confusion in terms of too much impressionistic and late romantic influence. If that even makes sense :D
    In other words, you are not really playing with people's expectations or inner sense of form because there is too much sudden change of harmonies etc.. Listening to it I do not sense "the sonata form". In any case many of the famous 19th century composers failed completely when trying to do something similar to Beethoven or Mozart. For a long time I was wondering why I never liked any Mendelssohn's symphonies and did not find they had much resemblance to Mozart's symphonies (as was the claim). Researching his early instructions I realized that he was never introduced to any of the rigid Italian schematas that was the backbone of Mozart and even much of Beethoven and Chopin's works. In 19th century Europe there was a clear difference between Romantic, often self-taught and highly experimental composers, and the more traditional composers from the south (or from Russia).
    Paul T McGraw likes this.
  9. Just chiming in to ask about this. The "Galant" style is music from around 1720-1770. How does this book help shed light on Beethoven's work 50+ years later ?
    Paul T McGraw likes this.
  10. Thank you for the comments. I am really glad you like the section from M49 to M85. It was written rather late in the composing process and I just felt that the A section was not complete without looking at the A theme in a different way. In fact, I struggled with myself about the length of the piece. I wanted to write more, but I know modern listeners prefer shorter pieces. Glad you like the coda with the A theme in half-time. I am vainly proud of the coda. @Doug Gibson has been coaching me, and he offered the idea of the string runs, which I think add a lot to the excitement.

    So more woodwinds / strings question and answer would in your view make the piece stronger? What would you think if I added more of that sort of material in the recapitulation? The development section would theoretically be best for that type of material, but it is very tightly composed as it is. The development section has a very nice flow in my thinking. Adding material would disrupt the unfolding of ideas as one leads to the next. But I could easily add material to the recapitulation.

    A live performance is my dream. If I won the lottery I would hire an orchestra to perform each of my works. But unless I win the lottery, I have no hope of something so wonderful.
  11. #11 Paul T McGraw, Oct 15, 2018 at 2:59 AM
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2018 at 2:36 PM
    Thank you so much for listening and commenting. I have purchased the Gjerdinger book: "The Galant Style" and plan to read it soon.

    As you mention in your post, "sonata form" was widely used during the romantic era. My favorite composers are Tchaikovsky and Dvorak and they both used it in their symphonies. I have a great appreciation for the Mendelssohn symphonies, and I agree that they are not extremely similar to Mozart, except in terms of the form of course.

    I am really looking forward to hearing more of your compositions. Thank you again for listening.
  12. That is because he never abandoned the use of many of the old schematas. There is also the "grammar" of dividing the musical endings into commas(mi to fa, ending by half-step), semi-colons(half-cadences), and periods (full cadences). I believe Robert refers to the old Italian art as "controlled modulations" something that Beethoven mastered.
    Fascinating Robert Gjerdingen demonstrates a Chopin piece that has a section also build on an old Italian schema although altered harmonically.
    He also demonstrates why Mozart was not the most popular composer - he simply started to ignore the established use of schematas thus actually confusing people. A bit like if a blues artist suddenly ignored the established blues conventions.
    So the whole art was knowing what people expected in terms of harmonic development and what they were used to hearing in terms of established schematic usage. So yes, Beethoven did a lot that is not Galant, but when he did he knew what he was doing as opposed to the majority of romantic composers. I actually stopped studying all this after watching "Here's Johnny" - Mike's John Williams masterclass, but I did invest in the book "The Italian Traditions and Puccini", very informative regarding all this. So Europe was split in terms of musical tradition and education - the north started focusing on Bach choral writings, fugues, and the new theories of harmony, whereas the south(Italy and I think France and also Russia) kept the more institutionalized instructions - rule of octave and partimenti training. Beethoven had a bit of both. He owned all partimenti manuscripts he could get his hands on. His student training book (lessons with Albrechtsberger) is freely available online, and as far as I know it is not a fake. That is a more serious focus on voice leading and the new ideas of harmony. And he was a major Mozart fan.

    There is also a lot written about the Germanic self-referencing style dating bach to CPE Bach and maybe earlier (influencing Haydn Mozart and Beethoven), as opposed to the Italian more traditional and conventional public style (more fashion than art).
    If you guys liked Mike's composition 101 then you will love Robert's book. And it is more research based and scientific and historical accurate.
    You can check out his free youtube lecture,
    Paul T McGraw likes this.
  13. I would think adding new material would be easier although there are a few other sections that might work, possibly around ms. 150 maybe? Certainly its not essential, though providing contrasting with winds might help to balance the tutti sections and emphasis the pastoral feel.
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